Construction of a multimillion dollar industrial and commercial complex called Metro East, which could rival the office developments of Rosslyn and Crystal City, is set to begin within a few months on a hilly piece of ground across from the New Carrollton Metro station.

Metro East, which will rise on an 83-acre site, is expected to include at least five office buildings up to eight stories, a high-rise hotel with an estimated 500 rooms, restaurants and the headquarters of a Maryland-based bank. The initial construction of two one-story "suburban-type" buildings, built for Rouse and Associates, a real estate development firm, will be the vanguard for the development of "quality office space," according to Erle Ellis, representative for Shell Oil Company, which owns the site.

Shell bought the land, called the New Carrollton triangle, last year for $3.8 million and said it has put $4 million more into it in legal costs, grading and the building of roads, all necessary before selling off acreage to other developers.

The main attraction for the project, which some developers say is "the hottest piece of property in town," is its access. The property is located in the center of a triangle formed by I-495, Rte. 50 and the Penn Central Railroad line, and within walking distance of the station that will serve both the Amtrak Metroliner and the soon-to-open New Carrollton Metro line.

"If you were to weigh all the facets of this property," said Ellis, "in Prince George's there isn't anything like it, and it stands equal to anything else in the District area. The transportation (it offers) is unsurpassed by any other in the area."

Menard Doswell, a partner in Rouse and Associates, said Metro East "is a great location. It has good visibility and exposure. The public transportation couldn't be beat. We will be serving a market not (now) served in this area with first quality office space. Prince George's has been driving potential users away because there was no place for them."

But when Metro East is fully built up, which is now estimated at within five years, there will be plenty of places for those "users" to go.

Already in the works are plans for an eight-story building to house the People's Security Bank, an office building built by the Retail Store Employees Union Local 400, AFL-CIO, a five-to-seven story office building built by James W. Rogers, and a hotel by still undisclosed firm.

"And I am already working with three others for office sites," said Rogers, a broker for the Shell site and owner of land adjacent to the property. "There was originally a five-year program to sell the ground, but the way things have been going, it looks like it will be all sold within three years."

Ellis said Shell envisions the project to be "a campus atmosphere. This will not be a blacktop U.S.A. Not everything is going to be a skyscraper. It will have green space with each building having its own identity."

Members of the county's park and planning staff and interested parties in the development said the project could be worth more than $51 million and bring the county $1 million a year in taxes when completed.

Doswell said the county, through quick compliance for permit requests, "seems to be eager to attract quality development to the county. They are more receptive here than at any location we've worked in," he said.

Shell's only remaining hurdle is to obtain a special exception to the zoning regulations to permit a hotel in the development. "I can't see there would be any holdup, however," said Ellis. "All we're doing is improving the situation for everybody."

Ellis said Shell, through the county planning and approval process, was being careful in its selection of investors for the property. "We're not hit and run artists, we're here for the long-term," he said.